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Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination – A Q&A with Riten Engineer Lisa Thompson

“Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.” That was the theme of this year’s National Women’s History Month, and it got us thinking about the extraordinary women who are part of our team here at Riten. We spoke with Lisa Thompson about what being an engineer means to her, and how to get a whole new generation of young women interested in engineering.

 

What is your educational background?

  • Associate Degree in Computer Aided Design
  • Associate Degree in Drafting and Design
  • Bachelor Degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology

 

What is your title at Riten?          

Engineer

 

Describe a typical day at Riten.

“Typical” does not pertain to Riten Industries! The minute the clock turns 8am the phones are ringing and the emails are coming in. The shop is already hard at work before I even come in. Customers call all day long asking for quotes on their special projects, prints, help deciding what is the best design for their application, and questions on their repairs. Every person in the company is involved with our customers every day.

 

What is the most challenging project you’ve worked on at Riten?

I don’t believe I could pick just one project. Everything I work on is challenging in its own special way. I suppose just learning my way around the business and trying to learn as much as possible has been the most challenging. I had never worked in this type of setting before coming to Riten.

 

What do you feel is the importance of imagination in science, technology, engineering and mathematics?

The importance of imagination is keeping your mind open to all of the amazing things that can be learned. Technology has changed so much in the last 20 years since I started my post high school education.  Laptops didn’t exist and now everyone has a tablet! If you close off your mind to change, engineering, science, technology and mathematics might not be for you. These four components are changing all aspects of life from automobiles to health care.

 

What first sparked your interest in working in these fields?

When I was in the 5th grade I met a gentleman at a community event who was showing off a local college’s AutoCAD program. He was “plotting” a wireframe of an airplane. After talking with him for a while I told him I would see him in 8 years. When I showed up in his drafting class 8 years later, he remembered who I was and could almost recite our entire conversation from 8 years earlier. He said I was the only female he spoke to while he was there.

 

Why do you believe these fields have gained a reputation as more traditionally “male?” What do you think can be done to change that?

It WAS totally a male field. In the beginning women were staying home or working in clerical positions. It was a very biased occupation. Even today it is still very biased but women are proving themselves as equals in all fields. I believe that getting girls involved at an early age will help to spark their interest and get them to look at a path that they might otherwise not have followed. Some colleges host Women in Engineering/Science camps for young girls to help get them involved and get their minds open to all the opportunities available to them. Encourage girls to think outside the box when it comes to their future. A career in Science and Engineering is just a more technical grade school science experiment. The same results are still revealed but in a more complex and thorough fashion. The possibilities are endless.

 

What are some of the unique challenges faced by women pursuing careers in these fields?

Even now in the 21st century, women are still thought of as “secretaries”. For example, I still receive phone calls from customers, mainly men that say “I don’t want to talk to you; I would like to speak with a man”! I feel that they don’t believe I know what they are talking about and cannot give them the answer they want to hear. Women have to work harder to prove themselves equal to men. Women don’t get paid as much as their male counterparts.

 

What advice would you give to young women interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics?

Do not let anyone tell you that you cannot do it. Work hard, do your best, and prove yourself to be the best. It is an exciting field that is constantly changing.

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